Digest 2005: Hard Disk Drives and SATA/SAS Controllers | ExtensivelyReviewed

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In 2005, the market gave witness to various technological upgrades in hard disk drives and data storage systems. This year was also dubbed as “a year of 3Gbit/s and NCQ”.  Moreover, the industry experienced a major company merging. [no_toc]

On HDD Capacities

Before 2004 ended, Seagate and Maxtor have upgraded their 80-gigabyte platter capacities. The following year, other top innovators of 3.5” ATA-drives have launched their 100-gigabyte platter technologies:

  • Hitachi, with its Deskstar T7K250;
  • Seagate, with select Barracuda 7200.8 products;
  • Maxtor, with its DiamondMax 10;
  • Western Digital, with its 3200 and 4000
  • Samsung, with its SpinPoint P120’s 200 gigabyte model.

Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 — the first half terabyte hard drive.

Except for Western Digital, all manufacturers further upgraded into 125-gigabyte platters:

  • Hitachi, with its 7K500 from the Deskstar line;
  • Maxtor, with its DiamondMax 11 and MaXLine Pro 500;
  • Seagate, with other select Barracuda 7200.8 products; and
  • Samsung, with its SpinPoint P120’s 200 gigabyte models.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 — the first hard disk drive with 160 GB platters.

Soon after, 133-gigabyte platters were also launched. Western Digital, Seagate and Maxtor featured three-platter and 400 gigabyte models, like:

  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.8, and
  • Maxtor DiamondMax 11 models.

Hitachi and Samsung also launched their 400 gigabyte models. While Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.9 products have offered 160 gigabyte capacity per platter.

By 2006, Seagate, Hitachi and Maxtor have introduced their 500 gigabyte technologies. Moreover, Maxtor’s 500 gigabyte model featured a four-platter design.

In theory, certain manufacturers could have launched higher capacity technologies:

  • Hitachi’s 125 gigabyte platters in a 625-gigabyte model;
  • Maxtor’s four 133-gigabyte platters in a 533-gigabyte model; and
  • Seagate’s recalled 4-platter creation, which can be incorporated into a 666-gigabyte model.

Lower gigabyte models could have been adopted due to low market demand. The 500-gigabyte models, for example, were only deemed relavant for professional storage systems.

Seagate Savvio 10K.1 — the first 2.5″ SCSI and SAS hard disk drive.

On Cache Sizes

As HDD capacities have increased, so did cache sizes.  In 2015, manufacturers have followed Maxtor’s technological advancement by launching top producs with 16-megabyte buffers:

  • Western Digital, with its Caviar SE16
  • Hitachi, with its Deskstar 7K500;
  • Seagate, with its Barracuda 7200.9.

Such buffer levels are also found among HDDs of servers and notebooks.

However, the quality of system performance is not necessarily determined through the buffer size. Sytem performance depends on a firmware’s efficiency in handling buffers to cache information for writing and reading.  As an example, Maxtor’s above average system performance is mainly attributed to its dual-processor controller.

All HDD companies also continue to incorporate 2 MB buffer into their desktop systems. These products usually cater to the lower market segments. Moreover, these systems perform almost as fast as those with 8 MB buffers.

Furthermore, the past year was characterized by HDD developments in three market areas: operations acoustic noise, power heating or consumption, and shock resistance. However, the technicalities of the upgrades were much different than previous upgrades.

Adaptec products for Serial Attached SCSI.

On Serial Interface Progress

Serial HDD systems have developed in 2005. SATA 1.0 was upgraded to SATA 2.0. Some of its features include:

  • Native Command Queuing,
  • 3 Gbit/s transfer,
  • Hot Plug,
  • Staggered Spin-up,
  • eSATA, and
  • Port Multiplier.

The Native Command Queuing Support was also improved in select Seagate and Maxtor models. Major HDD companies have also upgraded their systems in support of the NCQ and 3 Gbit/s technologies.  However, the industry is yet to speak about the functions’ compliance with ATA 2.5” system specifications.

According to various tests, NCQ and 3 Gbit/s technologies does not always result to a system improvement. As an example, 3 Gbit/s technologies are deemed irrelevant for desktops. Some manufacturers, like Western Digital, even disable the NCQ of select desktop hard disk drives.

Still, the new technologies were used by host controllers. There were in-store promotions of various PCI add-ons of the ATA II system, particularly on Marvel, Silicon Image and Promise chips. In the spring of 2005, motherboad system chipsets were also integrated to RAID controllers that supports NCQ and and SATA 3 GBit/s. Its pioneers were Nvidia and Intel.

Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 SATA — the fastest hard disk drive for notebooks.

On SCSI Technology and the Launch of SAS

In 2005, professional storage systems sales grew. Hence, the system’s HDD sales also grew, especially the Ultra 320 SCSI product.  This occurrence has negated the rumors for the SCSI technology’s downfall, due to the believed impossibility of a speedy interface modification. Despite the absence of upgrades in Ultra320-SCSI products, the market was well-satisfied with the existing 2004 products.

Seagate Momentus 5400.3 based on perpendicular magnetic recording.

In 2004, Seagate has launched its new 2.5” storage device. This device was incorporated in the Savvio 10K.1 models. In 2005, Seagate launched the Fibre Channel, as well as the modified SAS of its Savvio products.  Fujitsu has also made SAS modifications to its 2.5” enterprise drive called MAV2073RC.  These hard drives were advisable for usage of professional systems. Such systems include 1U storage, 2U storage, blade servers and servers.

Particularly among professional storage systems, the usage of Serial-Attached variant was most recognized in 2005. A number of host controller manufacturers have launched new RAID products for the SAS interface.

A Major Company Merging

In the year 2005, the industry has witnessed a major company merging, that of  Seagate and Maxtor. Seagate has bought its huge competitor for about two billion dollars.

The acquisition was made when Maxtor’s capitalization has dropped. The shareholders temporarily follows a shares split of 16% for Maxtor and 84% for Seagate.

This merging resulted to garnering almost half of the global market for HDDs. Moreover, the newly-merged company expects an accumulated savings of 300 million dollars per year.

The company merging is still taking place. The two brands are currently acting as separate entities in the market.


As of today, the HDD industry is on the look out for the next set of company and market shifts. The newly-merged company, for example, is hoped the avoid the company failure experienced by a previous merger, Maxtor and Quantum. The failed merging was attributed to poor management and marketing incompetence, despite Maxtor’s premium technological capacities.

Other manufacturers are yet to take a stand on whether they follow Maxtor’s initiative in launching a dual-processor controller. Hitachi GST is also facing challenges in keeping market stability. While Samsung and Western Digital needs to keep up with the latest HDD technology.

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